Monday, January 19, 2009

This generation's Woodstock: The inauguration of President Barack Obama

The excitement is building for this generation’s Woodstock – the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
A weekend of events in Washington, D.C., culminates tomorrow (Tuesday Jan. 20, 2009) with the swearing in of Obama as our nation’s 44th president. The festivities have included a concert Sunday with performances by Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce, Stevie Wonder, John Mellencamp and U2.
The inauguration and related festivities are expected to draw about 2 million visitors over the long holiday weekend. The inauguration has been a magnet for young people who believe this could be a defining moment of their generation.
Certainly the media is in a frenzy.
After Obama’s victory in the presidential race, the editor of The Rock Island Argus contacted me and a bunch of ex-staffers from the Argus and its sister newspaper in Western Illinois, the Moline Daily Dispatch. I worked for the Argus and Dispatch in the Quad-Cities from January 1987 until March 1992.
I replied with my thoughts the day after the Nov. 4, 2008, election. They seem just as fresh today. Here’s what I said:

More than anything this election was about hope. People are hoping for a change in the direction of the country, the economy and the political discourse. Whether that hope leads to actual change for the better, no one can know right now.
The hope with President Barack Obama is that he will be a unifying figure in Washington, D.C. And with Democrats controlling both houses of Congress, he won’t have to work that hard at rallying the support of Capitol Hill.
President Obama also holds the promise of healing old racial wounds and showing the world that the U.S. embraces its diversity.
As a reporter, I’ve always appreciated that Obama would answer the questions that are asked of him. Many politicians deflect, answer the question they wish they were asked and stick to their stale talking points. Obama seems like an honest, straight-forward, intelligent guy. He’s also charming and quite funny. Oh, man, sounds like I’ve got a man-crush on Obama.
But I’m not without my concerns about his presidency. I worry that he may be too na├»ve on foreign affairs and lacks a proper understanding of business and economics.
But I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and am rooting for him to succeed. He certainly has his work cut out for him.
We can only hope that Obama joins the proud ranks of Illinois presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.
My former editor, Roger Ruthhart, included some of my comments in a Dispatch-Argus story, which ran Nov. 7, 2008. Here’s a link to that story. Also quoted are some talented writers I had the pleasure of working with back then, including the Washington Post’s Amy Argetsinger and the Orlando Sentinel’s Jerry Fallstrom.

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